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It will come as little surprise that no amateur has won a men’s major championship in the modern era.

Seven amateurs have lifted one of golf’s four biggest titles on 14 occasions – all between 1890 and 1933, and all by career amateurs. (Though the last amateur to win a major, Johnny Goodman, did turn pro at the age of 50.)

The most famous, of course, was Francis Ouimet – the Grandfather of Amateur Golf – and that victory at Brookline, while Bobby Jones – one of the greatest players to ever grace the game – won seven of the modern major championships.

Who are the amateur golfers to win a major?

Here’s the full rundown…

  • John Ball (1890 Open Championship, Prestwick)
  • Harold Hilton (1892 Open Championship, Muirfield)
  • Harold Hilton (1897 Open Championship, Royal Liverpool)
  • Francis Ouimet (1913 US Open, The Country Club)
  • Jerome Travers (1915 US Open, Baltusrol)
  • Chick Evans (1916 US Open, Minikahda)
  • Bobby Jones (1923 US Open, Inwood)
  • Bobby Jones (1926 US Open, Scioto)
  • Bobby Jones (1926 Open Championship, Royal Lytham & St Annes)
  • Bobby Jones (1927 Open Championship, St Andrews)
  • Bobby Jones (1929 US Open, Winged Foot)
  • Bobby Jones (1930 US Open, Interlachen)
  • Bobby Jones (1930 Open Championship, Royal Liverpool)
  • Johnny Goodman (1933 US Open, North Shore)

For the record, this septet of history makers won a combined 28 Amateur and British Amateur Championships – in those days considered majors – between them. Indeed, Jones would be the first player to complete the original Grand Slam.

No amateur has ever won – or, indeed, competed in – the PGA Championship, for (hopefully) obvious reasons, while no amateur has ever won the Masters, either, though three have finished second: Frank Stranahan in 1947, Ken Venturi in 1956, and Charles Coe in 1961. Coe also had a top 10 the following year, the last amateur to do so in Augusta’s showpiece.

The last amateur to finish in the top 10 in the United States’ national championship was Jim Simons, in 1971, while Viktor Hovland went close with a T12 in 2019.

The Open has been a happier hunting ground in recent years for those yet to turn pro.

Who could forget a fresh-faced Justin Rose’s stunning finish that saw him finish in a tie for 4th at Royal Birkdale in 1998? Or Chris Wood’s T5 at the same venue a decade later. The most recent, though, was Jordan Niebrugge, who finished in a share for 6th at St Andrews in 2015.

But let’s not remind Paul Dunne that, in the very same tournament, he was tied for the lead at The Open as an amateur with a record score of 12-under-par, before a final-day 78 saw him tumble to a share for 30th.

It is also worth giving Jack Nicklaus a special mention. Everyone knows everything about the GOAT’s ludicrous major record as a professional, but as an amateur he finished T13 at the 1960 Masters – his major debut, by the way – before finishing 2nd and just two shots back of Arnold Palmer at the US Open a couple of months later. The following year he finished tied-7th at Augusta and T4th at Oakland Hills. He turned pro and needed just two attempts to win the first of his 18-major haul.

And – because we know you’re thinking it – Tiger Woods finished as the low amateur twice, with a T41 at the 1995 Masters and a T22 at the following year’s Open.

What about in the women’s game?

It’s a lot more complicated in the women’s game – largely due to their chopping and changing of their major schedule down the years.

None of the five current LPGA majors have been won by an amateur. Though it is worth noting that while the Women’s British Open didn’t achieve major status until 2001, prior to that the tournament was won by three amateurs: Jenny Lee Smith in the inaugural event in 1976, Janet Melville in 1978, and Marta Figueras-Dotti in 1982.

The now defunct Western Open was won 14 times by amateurs in its formative years: Lucia Mida in 1930, June Beebe in 1931 and 1933, Jane Weiller in 1932, Marian McDougall in 1934, Opal Hill in 1935 and 1936, Bea Barrett in 1938, Helen Dettweiler in 1939, Babe Zaharias in 1940, 1944 and 1945, Betty Jameson in 1942, and Louise Suggs in 1946 and 1947.

Another LPGA tournament that’s no longer a major – the Titleholders Championship – was also dominated by majors in the early years. Patty Berg in 1937, 1938 and 1939, Helen Hicks in 1940, Dorothy Kirby in 1941 and 1942, Louise Suggs in 1946, Babe Zaharias in 1947, Peggy Kirk in 1949, and Pat O’Sullivan in 1951 all lifted the title

And finally, the De Maurier Classic was never won by an amateur in its major days, but Lydia Ko – who else? – won what is now the Canadian Women’s Open in 2012 and 2013.

author headshot

Alex Perry is the Associate Editor of bunkered. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has been a golf industry stalwart for the majority of his career and, in a five-year spell at ESPN, covered every sporting event you can think of. He completed his own Grand Slam at the 2023 Masters, having fallen in love with the sport at his hometown club of Okehampton and on the links of nearby Bude & North Cornwall.

Associate Editor

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